Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Keeping track of Walton $$$

The right-wing, anti-union Walton Family Foundation invested $157,220,283 in corporate-style school reform this past year. The biggest beneficiary was Teach For America, raking in more than $16 million. KIPP got $8.6 million.

Bill Gates has the blues

Bill Gates is sober—and willing to admit some missteps. -- WSJ
In today's Wall Street Journal interview, power philanthropist Bill Gates complains that all of his brilliant school reform ideas have been "met with resistance" from unions and "a top-down government monopoly provider." Don't you love how Gates (who himself was found guilty of operating a monopoly) and WSJ have suddenly become anti-monopoly critics when it comes to public education?

In the interview, Gates admits that the investment he and other power philanthropists have made in corporate-style school reform, "hasn't led to significant improvements."

Actually, one of those reforms was showing significant improvement until Gates began investing in it. Gates money turned a promising small-schools movement into a charter school privatization initiative. The foundation pulled back on its investment when test scores and college rates failed to increase fast enough for Gates.
"But the overall impact of the intervention, particularly the measure we care most about—whether you go to college—it didn't move the needle much," he says. "Maybe 10% more kids, but it wasn't dramatic. . . . We didn't see a path to having a big impact, so we did a mea culpa on that." Still, he adds, "we think small schools were a better deal for the kids who went to them."
Today, we can only dream of a single reform that improves college success rates by 10% every few years. Dilettante Gates' mea culpas are getting a bit tiring.

If Bill had his druthers, he would favor privatization and charters, but he's afraid of even more resistance -- some innovator!
He praises the private school model for its efficiency vis-à-vis traditional public schools, noting that the "parochial school system, per dollar spent, is an excellent school system." But the politics, he says, are just too tough right now. "We haven't chosen to get behind [vouchers] in a big way, as we have with personnel systems or charters, because the negativity about them is very, very high."

A court victory for charter operators, a loss for civil rights groups and unions

In a defeat for the NYC teachers, parents and civil rights groups, Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman denied the UFT and NAACP’s request for a preliminary injunction preventing the D.O.E. from closing 22 schools and co-locating 15 charter schools in regular public school buildings. Feinman.ruled that Mayor Bloombeg, Chancellor Dennis Wolcott were free to move ahead with plans to close more neighborhood schools and move the place 15 privately-run charter schools in the buildings of neighborhood schools this year. 

The N.A.A.C.P. had joined with the union in the suit, which among its other claims, said that the city had discriminated against traditional district schools by giving privately-managed charters a priviledged position inside the "shared" buildings including more time in common spaces like auditoriums and gymnasiums than the traditional schools. In other words, neighborhood kids and teachers were made to feel like second-class citizens in their own schools.
From the Brooklyn Eagle: 

The multiple school closings have been characterized by some parents as an unfair rush to clear out under-resourced standard public schools in order to give their real-estate to charter schools backed by donors with deep pockets.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Murdoch's fixer, Joel Klein

At first glance, it may seem odd for Klein, a lifelong Democrat who worked in Washington in the Clinton White House counsel’s office and in New York as the independent mayor Michael Bloomberg’s schools chancellor, to be the chief defender of the owner of the U.S.’s most powerful conservative media outlets.

More recently, before Murdoch hired Klein, the two men demonstrated a shared passion for education reform. Last October, Klein introduced a speech that Murdoch gave on education reform at the annual gala of The Media Institute in Washington. At the outset of his speech, Murdoch praised the “miracles that Joel has been performing for the New York City school system” and called him, with eerie prescience, “a man for all seasons.”
Klein got his biggest dose of pressure and media attention as head of New York’s public schools, a job he took without any educational credential besides a four-month stint teaching in Queens. Bloomberg charged him with the politically radioactive task of overhauling the school system, a job that Klein approached with the political fearlessness only an outsider can have."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Murdoch: Public ed is a "near monopoly"

Gates & Murdoch
Last year, Rupert Murdoch, owner of the world's second largest communications conglomerate, went on a tirade against U.S. public education, calling it a "near monopoly." It wasn't clear if Rupert meant that as a compliment or criticism for only achieving near status. 

Murdoch has also referred to public schools as "failure factories." He sounds an awful lot like Bill Gates or Arne Duncan who often refers to inner-city high schools as "dropout factories".
The days of America as the unrivaled world leader in public education seem to be gone, Murdoch said. He called the existing system a “near-monopoly” and said teachers aren’t being hired and fired based on performance. “We have tougher standards on ‘American Idol,’” the singing-competition TV show on his Fox network, he said.-- Bloomberg

Monday, July 18, 2011

Corporate school "reformers" engineered Atlanta cheating cover-up

“School systems, like businesses, must also look at the return on their investment,” wrote Georgia Power’s former CEO, Mike Garrett and UPS’ Evern Cooper Epps. “Any honest dialogue about salaries must be based on that principle.”

The city’s chamber of commerce and another business group took control of the district’s investigation last year into irregularities on state-mandated tests. Executives at the Metro Atlanta Chamber set the parameters of the inquiry and largely selected the people who ran it. Later, they suggested ways to “finesse” the findings past the governor.

Business leaders published opinion pieces and letters to the editor defending [Supt. Beverly] Hall before cheating inquiries were complete; calls for the superintendent to resign, they said, could undermine the district’s progress. And just as they had lobbied almost a decade earlier to give the superintendent more autonomy from the Board of Education, this year they sought new power for the governor to remove recalcitrant board members. -- AJC 7/17

A Feb. 15, 2010 memo drafted by a chamber executive, reads:

“It [cheating scandal] also has implications on the business community, many of whom ... are heavy investors, and on the economic development community who touts the superintendent and school board’s recent awards as best in the nation.” 
Seventeen months later, a state investigation has revealed that many of the school district’s claims of academic progress were, in fact, based on systemic wrongdoing.

GE’s vice chairman, John Rice, who was based in Atlanta, became one of Hall’s closest confidants. Her emails, obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act, show she frequently consulted Rice on matters large and small. He offered advice on managing stress, for instance, urging her to not read critical editorials.

Once the cat was out of the bag, the same corporate "reformers" that had used Hall as their front person and who had funneled big bonuses her way, unceremoniously dumped her and threw he under the proverbial bus.

Murdoch's growing presence in U.S. charter schools

Joel Klein left his job as Chancellor of New York City Schools, to take up positions as Executive Vice-President in the office of the chairman and CEO of News Corp’s Education Division, apparently to develop software and other educational tools that would lead to a “huge transformation in the field of education”, bringing the Murdoch empire at the forefront of using technology to deliver instruction. His critics claim that more teaching will be computer based and that teachers will become more and more redundant in this landscape. Although there is no evidence for this, other detractors wonder if this is beginning of Murdoch establishing a Chain of Charter Schools, especially since he had made a huge philanthropic contribution to the Leadership Academy in New York, one of Klein’s signal pet projects. -- Local Schools Network

Sunday, July 17, 2011

DeVos plan, bribing the pols

Strategy for Privatizing Public Schools Spelled out by Dick DeVos in 2002 Heritage Foundation Speech
"We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities," Dick DeVos warned in a December 2002 speech at the Heritage Foundation. DeVos was introduced by former Secretary of Education William Bennett and then proposed a stealth strategy for promoting school vouchers in state legislatures. DeVos and his wife Betsy had already spent millions promoting voucher initiatives that were soundly rejected by voters. Pro-privatization think tanks had concluded that vouchers were the most politically viable way to "dismantle" public schools; the DeVoses persevered. Dick DeVos introduced his 2002 Heritage Foundation audience to a covert strategy to provide "rewards or consequences" to state legislators, learning from the activities of the Great Lake Education Project (GLEP) initiated by Betsy DeVos. Vouchers should be promoted by local "grass roots" entities and could not be "viewed as only a conservative idea." DeVos added, "This has got to be the battle. It will not be as visible."  -- Rachel Tabachnick, Talk to Action blog

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Power Philanthropy's biggest givers & getters

A new report on foundation activity, Critical Contributions: Philanthropic Investment in Teachers and Teaching (, released today by the University of Georgia and Kronley & Associates, found that foundations directed $684 million to teachers and teaching between 2000 and 2008.

The analysis, the first comprehensive examination of philanthropy activity in this area, also revealed that much of the funding came from a relatively small number of foundations.

The top 10 foundations accounted for 50 percent of all grants and include:
1.Carnegie Corporation of New York $81,969,575
2.Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation $78,167,363
3.Annenberg Foundation $36,725,000
4.Michael and Susan Dell Foundation $25,401,978
5.Broad Foundation $24,554,869
6.Joyce Foundation $23,773,256
7.Lilly Endowment, Inc. $21,224,576
8.Milken Family Foundation $20,700,625
9.Ford Foundation $17,581,716
10.Stuart Foundation $14,459,666

In addition, the study found that more than 60 percent of all foundation grants between 2000 and 2008 went to 10 organizations:

1.Teach for America $213,444,431
2.Academy for Educational Development $59,063,000
3.Northwest Educational Service District 189 $45,012,830
4.Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation $21,561,106
5.The New Teacher Project $17,955,680
6.University of California at Santa Cruz, New Teacher Center $16,642,730
7.Teacher Advancement Program $15,480,625
8.National Board for Professional Teaching Standards $12,401,350
9.Philadelphia Foundation $10,000,000
10.Teachers Network $9,441,402

Other highlights of the report include:
  • Driven by investments in Teach for America, which was awarded $213 million, recruitment was the largest grantmaking category, capturing 38 percent of funding. This was followed by professional development (22 percent) and teacher preparation (14 percent). All other categories combined received less than 10 percent of grant funding.|
  • Today, there is a convergence between the philanthropic sector and federal policymakers. Policies and practices developed, tested and advocated for by foundations have been included in new federal initiatives, including “Race to the Top.” Funders are now seeking strategies to leverage the opportunities provided by the new federal programs while considering whether and how these programs might be sustained when federal funding ends.
The report was developed collaboratively by a team of researchers from Kronley & Associates and the University of Georgia College of Education with support from the Ford Foundation. Arthur M. Horne, dean of the UGA College of Education, and Robert A. Kronley, president of Kronley & Associates, are co-principal investigators. Claire Suggs is the principal author, with significant input from Kathleen deMarrais. Additional members of the team included Karen Watkins and Kate Swett. The report can be downloaded at

See Valerie Strauss' piece in the Washington Post: "Where private foundations award education cash."

Murdoch moves on public education in Indiana, N.Y.

With former N.Y. Chancellor Joel Klein fronting for him, Rupert Murdoch is expanding his criminal communications conglomerate into public education in the U.S.
Murdoch isn't a philanthropist in the mold of a Bill Gates or Eli Broad, but like members of the Billionaire Boys' Club – as Diane Ravitch describes them – he believes he knows the key to improving education. In Murdoch's case, it's the software produced by Wireless Generation, which News Corp. paid $360 million to acquire a 90 percent interest. The company sells software to schools, most of them funded by taxpayers. The Indiana Department of Education's most recent contract with Wireless Generation was for about $200,000. Murdoch hired former NYC schools chief Joel Klein as CEO of News Corp.'s education division. -- Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette 7/15/11
Murdoch hired Klein as his front man to help penetrate the nation's largest school systems. At News Corp, where his pay package could be worth $4.5 million this year, including bonuses, he built a team of education executives, including some hires from New York: Kristen Kane, the former COO of the city's education department, and Diana Rhoten, founder of a New York City firm that develops new media and technology products for schools. -- Reuters 7/15/11

ALEC moves its anti-public school agenda

Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and other conservative activists and currently bankrolled by the Koch Bros., ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics.

Joel Rogers and Laura Dresser, write in Aug. 1-8 issue of The Nation:
GOP leaders, fresh from their blowout victory in November, pushed a consistent message—“We’re broke”; “Public sector workers are to blame”; “If we tax the rich we’ll face economic extinction”—and deployed legislative tools inspired by ALEC to enact their vision. 
This spring, GOP governors or legislatures introduced at least 500 of these and other ALEC-inspired anti-labor laws, including laws to restrict the scope of collective bargaining; to limit or eliminate “project labor agreements” and state “prevailing wage” requirements; and to pre-empt local living wage or other labor standards. Just keeping track of all the antiunion legislation was often daunting. In Michigan, the AFL-CIO was dealing with more than fifty laws aimed at its demise.

Also see Julie Underwood's "Starving Public Schools":

ALEC’s real motivation for dismantling the public education system is ideological—creating a system where schools do not provide for everyone—and profit-driven. The corporate members on its education task force include the Friedman Foundation, Goldwater Institute, Washington Policy Center, National Association of Charter School Authorizers and corporations providing education services, such as Sylvan Learning and the Connections Academy.

 Another good source is ALEC Exposed at the Center for Media & Democracy

Friday, July 15, 2011

Did they really give VanderArk his own chain of charter schools?

Tom VanderArk, was the Gates Foundation’s former executive director of education and a national proponent of online learning. His for-profit company was granted charters in 2010 to open a high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and two others in Newark. The New York school, Brooklyn City Prep, also got space in a public school building — a precious and controversial commodity — hired a principal, and welcomed applications from 150 eighth graders this spring.
But after spending more than $1.5 million of investors’ money on consultants and lawyers, Mr. Vander Ark, 52, has walked away from the project, and the schools will not open as planned this fall, leaving others involved stunned and frustrated.  -- N.Y. Times

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What to do about Murdoch's $47 million deal with Bloomberg's schools?

From Think Progress:
New York is readying to hand over tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars to a corporation that may have hacked 9/11 victims and which is being defended in the scandal by a man who once was a high-ranking official in New York City government. But according to Carl Korn, a spokesman for the New York State United Teachers, there is still a way to stop the deal.

Does a bear crap in the woods?

Headline in today's Monitor: "Is the Broad Superintendents Academy trying to corporatize schools?"
“What venture philanthropy is doing seems to me to be wielding influence not to help public institutions, but to destroy public institutions, or take control of them,” Mr. Horn said. “This is a dangerous place, where corporations and government get mixed up.”